Colorado community puts moms and babies first

Inspired by a similar event led by Healthy Children Project’s Executive Director Karin Cadwell in her small community, The Local Latch— a private lactation support business serving Chaffee County, Colo.–dreamed up a breastfeeding round table event hosted by the Chaffee County Breastfeeding Coalition (CCBC) and Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC), bringing together maternal child health stakeholders.

Members of CCBC, HRRMC labor and delivery nurses, attending family physicians and midwives, La Leche League Salida participants, lactation professionals, community peer counselors and mothers came together to engage in dialogue about how to streamline care for mothers and babies and fill the gaps to improve quality of care.

“We found ourselves with more people at the tables than we had space for!” The Local Latch co-founder Megan E. Lombardo, CLC exclaims. “…Different people we never thought would engage in this discussion came and were excited to participate. It was really extraordinary.”

In fact, everyone invited attended.

Breastfeeding Project Coordinator at Chaffee County Public Health Lorraine Redmond, IBCLC explains the roundtable format:  The event was held from 7:30 to 8:30 am in the education room at the hospital over a full breakfast. Each table, five in all, made up of participants with varying credentials was presented with a question constructed by Chaffee County lactation professionals.  Each table group discussed one question for about 40 minutes. CCBC members served as moderators and took notes.

From the notes, four repeating themes emerged: meet moms where they are-listen, listen, listen; stories are extremely influential; realistic preparation and planning that includes mom’s support network; empower parents so that they know when and where to go for support.

CCBC presented the project and results at their meeting last week.

Lombardo and The Local Latch co-founder Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC plan to use the themes to enhance their breastfeeding support groups and series.

“We also foresee this being the first of a long series of roundtable events that encourage this dialogue and problem solving across so many different fields of expertise working with new moms and babies,” Lombardo adds.  “We want to use the information we gather from these discussions to help us find the places where the ball gets dropped in prenatal and postpartum care and hopefully through all of us working together like this we can help to eliminate those gaps in care as best as we possibly can.”

Living in and breastfeeding in Chaffee County

Chaffee County is a rural mountain County along the Arkansas River with wide wealth disparities and health inequities specific to rural communities.

“While Chaffee County is a beautiful place to live and visit, the 2013 median income was about 22% lower than the median income for Colorado,” Redmond reports. “The median home value is 11% high than the Colorado median. This gap continues to widen.”

HRRMC has an average of 120 births per year with over half of those clients having Medicaid. Midwives in the area attend an average of 35 births per year.

The hospital implemented the Colorado Can Do 5, received the BEST (Breastfeeding Excellence Starts Today) Award, has “banned the bags” and offers childbirth and breastfeeding classes.  HRRMC has a 92% breastfeeding initiation rate with nine CLCs on staff.

Chaffee County also offers the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), Public Health’s Nurse Home Visitor Program, Healthy Start, Early Head Start (EHS) Program; Salida and Buena Vista Pregnancy Centers, a WIC Nutrition Educator, and La Leche League Leaders.  

“All of these valuable resources have working relationships in the Chaffee County Breastfeeding Coalition (CCBC) and are committed to increasing breastfeeding duration and exclusivity in Chaffee County,” says Redmond.

CCBC brought The Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) to Salida and planned a fun run/walk, a CLC luncheon at the training site and an evening with current CLCs to “help calm pre-test jitters”, Redmond reports.

The coalition has been awarded three grants over the past five years:  Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Pulmonary Disease Grant with the goal of increasing the number of policies and practices that promote and support breastfeeding-friendly environments; Business Case for Breastfeeding Grant to educate employers on how to comply with the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act and a Women Infants and Children (WIC) Local Agency Breastfeeding Special Project Grant.

The coalition is the cornerstone of Breastfeeding-Friendly Environments success: Thirty-seven businesses in Chaffee have adopted and implemented lactation policies in alignment with the Colorado law, Redmond goes on.

What’s more, the coalition created a donation and outreach center for the Mother’s Milk Bank and an evidence based breastfeeding plan and teaching guide that is currently embedded in the three nurse home visitor programs.

Inspired by LCTC

The LCTC has been largely inspiring to Crognan and Lombardo in their efforts to help families.

“”[It] was life changing!” Crognan exclaims. “…I found the information invaluable.”

Lombardo reflects, “I really gained so much confidence during that week about what I had to offer other mothers and what a special role I had to fill…. Before the training, I was really good being an advocate and peer support for other mamas. However, the training took me from being what felt like just a really supportive friend to an impassioned advocate for other moms.

I now felt armed with evidence and scientific rhetoric and answers to so many frequently asked questions, in addition to feeling very well prepared to go and continue to be a really supportive community member. I was so inspired by every minute of the training, and I left with contagious energy to continue to connect with other mamas in our community.”

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